Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!
Psalm 46:10 (KJV)
“Please pray for me to be joyous. I want to be a light to people around me.”
Those were the words of a precious friend who had recently lost her husband and felt the weight of everyone’s eyes upon her. She was trying to be strong for everyone else, but as we all know, it’s not always easy to be joyous or bold. We can’t simply step over our grief and get to the joy without first acknowledging our struggle.
The “good Christian woman” who handles her grief with no vulnerability seems too high up on a pedestal—an example too perfect to be of any use by others. The times people have seen me spill tears over Tom makes their witness of my pinnacles of joy and bold steps forward more real as God’s light in their lives.
Most widows struggle with these two polar images–the tearful widow and the fearless widow. Do you find yourself wondering how people around you picture you? Let’s explore these two stereotypes of the widow and then decide why neither fit.
The Tearful Widow
When the loss was fresh, the way people fussed over me both warmed me and made me feel awkward. I didn’t want them to stop because I didn’t want to be alone. At the same time, I felt pitying eyes constantly watching me through my ups and downs. Sometimes when I cried in public, I’d worry over what others thought of my tears, embarrassed to be the object of everyone’s sympathy.
The Fearless Widow
On the flip side, it’s also okay to have a surge of boldness and decisiveness as long as your decisions are grounded in God’s wisdom.
I didn’t hesitate to take bold steps to help my kids and me in managing our grief and our family matters. My actions were based on prayer and direction from the Lord, but stepping out in faith had me worried people would think I wasn’t sad enough–like making bold decisions about my future would lack reverence for my lost husband.
You’re not the Center of Attention: What a Relief!!!
I started to put pressure on myself—to fret over what others thought of my grieving.
Women so naturally worry about relationships around them. Sometimes, it’s a relief to remember that people aren’t always focused on exactly what we are doing or what our reactions and behaviors are. In a way, it’s pretty self-centered to think people are! Everyone is so busy with their lives—just reassuring them how grieving naturally involves a mix of tears and triumphs is the best way to handle what feels like the glare of people noticing us in our grief.
Audience of One
I was only able to be a light when I stopped my worry over what they thought of me. I purposefully stilled the thoughts, as the Psalmist wrote God asks us to do. “Be still and know that I am God.” I had to stop looking around me for approval and accept only the watchful eyes of the Father.
My friend has since decided to do what I had done—learn to relax about what others think and rest in Him as the Psalmist suggests. People expect neither unnatural joy nor gnashing of teeth during our grief. Often we presume people are watching when really, we have the freedom to take time to just experience our sadness. Just acknowledging our pain helps us heal and move on.
Dear Lord, give us a stillness in our hearts that protects us from feeling observed and exposed. Help us to see the attention given us in the eyes You give us through our new creation and not through our flesh of self-absorbed anxieties. People care and love us. Isn’t it wonderful, Lord? Help us to accept that love and read nothing more into it. Give us the freedom to grieve the way You ask us to and not feel pressured to express ourselves the way we think others expect our grief to be expressed. Amen.
Kit Hinkle is the Founder and Ministry Lead for A New Season Ministries, Inc., and an author and speaker. She has lived through corporate careers as a chemical engineer and a management consultant, but now finds her finest career as a home school mother to four teen boys–one of them launched in college. She loves Pilates and her best friend’s Bosanova Christian yoga-style stretching, and craves more walks through the woods with her chocolate lab. Her dream is to live on the beach–and Charleston is just calling her! She knows what it means to be in a new season. She lost her first marriage to divorce when she was very young and lost her loving husband to a heart attack in 2007. To sit with another who is walking through her tough road and show that woman Christ, brings joy and fulfillment to Kit. It’s such an honor to participate in His kingdom.
If you are interested in having her speak, please contact her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other articles by this author: www.anewseason.net/author/khinkle
Would you like to read more about being vulnerable? Here are some articles you might try:
One Million Tears by Liz Anne Wright
Triggers: Your Sister Feels them Too by Kit Hinkle